MATT BARLOW: Frank Lampard bided his time, but Everton’s role suits him well
Just over a year has passed since Frank Lampard woke up to an ominous text message from Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck summoning him to the boardroom at Stamford Bridge.
His time as head coach of the club where he scored a record 211 goals came to an end. There was no attempt to deny that his ego was bruised and he resisted the urge to dive right back in, but he always knew he would be back in the game.
Lampard has devoted most of the past 12 months to family life, with son Freddie born in March, serving as an occasional TV pundit and determined to continue his coaching studies as he digests the lessons of his career thus far. .
Frank Lampard is ready to win the battle to be appointed as Everton’s new manager
Last summer there was interest in the vacancy at Crystal Palace and a conversation prior to the appointment of Patrick Vieira. There were strong ties to Celtic, although it was never a realistic option. Lampard spoke vaguely of “flattering offers” but was willing to wait for the right one.
Then there was an interview, which didn’t go well, in Norwich in November. Lampard was in Dubai and seemed unprepared, unsure of the players, as they flew out to talk to him about the idea of taking over from Daniel Farke.
The Norwich board were clearly unimpressed and quickly turned their attention to Dean Smith, recently sacked by Aston Villa.
Lampard’s reputation took a big dent after he was sacked as Chelsea manager last January
Big clubs like Aston Villa and Newcastle looked elsewhere (Villa manager Steven Gerrard pictured)
Once again, Lampard’s reputation took a hit. Big jobs at Newcastle and Villa came and went without him really getting involved in the conversation. As time went on, the positive things he had achieved at Derby and Chelsea faded a little further from memory.
He made a positive impression at both clubs and connected supporters with the team. Derby fans will never forget his feud with Leeds and a thrilling 4-2 win at Elland Road in the play-offs.
The emotional return to Chelsea also started well, with fast-paced adventure football the perfect antidote to a year under Maurizio Sarri, and a return to the Champions League despite a transfer ban, the sale of Eden Hazard and the complications of a three-month hiatus caused by the pandemic.
Lampard turned to academy graduates such as Mason Mount and Reece James, now based in the first team at Stamford Bridge, and Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori, who fetched combined fees of £60million when they were sold to Italy. How would these gifted youngsters, all now wearing English caps, have developed without him?
Chelsea were at the top of the Premier League just 50 days before his sacking and it’s clear he didn’t make a complete mess of it, even if there were mistakes. He lost the trust of some key senior players and failed to maintain good lines of communication with the board. By the time he left, they were ninth and struggling.
Lampard’s interview with Norwich didn’t feel well prepared when Dean Smith got the job
He was also interviewed for the Crystal Palace job taken by Patrick Vieira
“Your pride will be dented,” Lampard told Sportsmail columnist Jamie Redknapp in his first interview after leaving the Bridge. “The first week I kept my head down, stayed at home, spent time with the family. But as soon as I got out, there were taxi drivers and Chelsea fans on the street giving me a real lift because of how they were with me.”
His status as a legend remains intact and yet Chelsea’s immediate success was not well reflected in his absence. Thomas Tuchel arrived and within four months had won the Champions League with the same group of players and climbed back into the top four.
To some, this supported the theory that Lampard was wet behind the ears, making costly mistakes in an unforgiving environment as he learned his new trade, and that he would benefit from someone with more experience and tactical insight in his coaching staff, especially when it came to the to his in-game decision-making.
Though Tuchel is likely to sympathize with his predecessor after tasting his first full campaign in English football, chasing trophies on all fronts.
Likewise, the Derby crisis has given a different complexion to Lampard’s season at Pride Park. The Rams are in administration, having deducted 21 points and fighting for survival as they try to avoid relegation to League One.
Positives from Lampard’s time at Derby and Chelsea were forgotten after his sacking
The job at Everton would give him the chance to revive his managerial career with a team that has struggled this season
Owner Mel Morris broke the rules to give managers like Lampard a squad they couldn’t afford. There were loan contracts like Mount, Tomori and Harry Wilson, big spend to beat championship rivals like Martyn Waghorn and Jack Marriott, and even a short term deal to seduce Ashley Cole.
Still, Derby didn’t go up. They came close, but once they lost to Villa in the play-off final at Wembley, the cuts started in earnest, with Morris happy to get compensation from Chelsea, who had few credible options to replace Sarri due to their predicament. with the transfer ban.
Lampard, 43, will be a wiser boss for all these experiences with the egos of modern footballers in the dressing room and the extreme pressure of expectation from modern owners in the boardroom.
There is no preparation for this. Not even if you’re one of the best players in the Premier League era, born into a football family, with a contact book full of the biggest names in the game.
In an odd way, having a layoff on his record could help, so he doesn’t have to scoff at privileges of those who claimed he’d been lucky enough to jump from the championship to the Champions League without even but a promotion to his name.
Lampard will take over at an Everton team that has endured a season of turmoil
Vitor Pereira expected to take on Everton role before fans protested
“You’re not a manager until you’re fired,” Roy Hodgson told Lampard in a soothing conversation full of wise advice shortly after he left Chelsea.
Smart enough and committed enough to take the lessons and evolve, he plans changes to his coaching team with Jody Morris not expected to join him as an assistant when he takes his next job.
At Everton, there is a lot of room for improvement, but without an unreasonable expectation of winning the Premier League.
Already quite unpopular in the city at Liverpool, Lampard has a proven ability to make fans feel good about their team again with his profile, personality and passion for an attacking style of football.
This must be the immediate target of Farhad Moshiri and his disorderly regime in Goodison Park.
The time feels right for Lampard to return and Everton feels like a good match for him.